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November 15, 2013 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-11-15

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6 - Friday, November 15, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner has taken a beating over the last two games; he's been sacked 14 times and hit countless others.

The Michigan football team is
heading down the homestretch
and, though
its top goal is
now a statis- Michigan at
tical impos- Northwestern
sibility, it says
there is still Matchup: Mich-
much to play igan 6-3; North-
for. western 4-5
The Wol- When: Satur-
verines will day 3:30 p.m.
not be win- Where: Crisler
ning the Big Center
Ten title, TV/Radio:
which is BTN
always the
expectation at
Michigan, but winning 10 games
is still on the table. In order for
that to remain possible, Michi-
gan will need to win on the road
- something it has struggled to
do in recent years - at North-
Despite an 0-5 Big Ten record
that's disappointing considering
the early season expectations,
the Wildcats enter Saturday's
game as three-point favorites
over the reeling Wolverines.

This year marks the first time said his team was able to predict
that Northwestern has ever been what plays the Wolverine offense
favored over Michigan. was going to run based on its for-
Like Nebraska, which beat the mations, but Hoke was quick to
Wolverines 17-13lastweekinAnn dismiss that notion.
Arbor, the Wildcats like to run "He's wrong," Hoke said.
the option. Michigan had a diffi- "We know what other guys are
cult time defending it against the doing, too. Everybody has that.
Cornhuskers, There's certain
and versatile things people
Northwestern "W 1e always are going to do
quarterback .y certain ways.
Kain Colter play foNow, when you
will make life p or our win a football
difficult.. game, I think
Star run- r sometimesn
ning back Ven- it's easy to say
ric Mark is out that."

In addition to aiding the non-
existent running game, the
offensive line needs to figure
out how to give Gardner more
time in the pocket. He has been
sacked seven times in each of the
past two games.
Gardner hinted this week that
short routes for the receivers
might be the only way around
the inadequate pass protection.
While sophomore Devin Funch-
ess and fifth-year senior Jeremy
Gallon have been targeted suc-
cessfully deep in some key spots
this season, the time simply isn't
there for Gardner to wait around
on deep routes.
When Michigan takes the field
for the first time with a Big Ten
title out of the picture, Hoke
said there's no reason to expect
anything less than 100-percent
effort out of his team.
"Well, number one, you're a
competitor," Hoke said. "You
want to go out and fight. We
always play for our seniors, and
we're always going to work hard
for those guys. The other thing
is, you have a chance to win 10
football games. That opportu-
nity is always out there. That's
always been a benchmark."

for the remainder of the season
with a left ankle fracture, giv-
ing the Wildcats one less threat
out of the backfield. But if the
Wolverines aren't able to stop
the option, there's no reason to
expect a different result Satur-
day, especially considering the
offense's massive struggles.
On the other side of the ball,
don't expect an entirely differ-
ent game plan from Michigan
after coach Brady Hoke defended
offensive coordinator Al Borges's
play calling all week. Nebraska
defensive end Randy Gregory

Fans booed the team at several
points of the Nebraska loss and
because games at Northwest-
ern often have a pro-Wolverines
environment, expect more of the
same if Borges continues to try
and run the ball despite nega-
tive yardage on the ground in the
past two games.
"Maybe they should try to find
a job as an offensive coordina-
tor," said redshirt junior quar-
terback Devin Gardner of the
angry fans. "Maybe they should
be offensive coordinators some-

Daily Sports Editor
Michigan pass offense vs.
Northwestern's pass defense
It seems like everything ties
back to the offensive line, doesn't
it? Redshirt junior quarterback
Devin Gardner has taken a beat-
ing the last two games, partially
because he's getting no protec-
tion but partially because he's
hanging onto the ball too long.
In two games, he's been
sacked 14 times and hit countless
other times. By the end of last
week's 17-13 loss to Nebraska, it
was taking him a while to get off
the turf after being hit.
Can he sustain that type of
pressure this week? It almost
doesn't matter that Northwest-
ern is the No. 11 pass defense in
the Big Ten and is allowing close
to 250 yards through the air per
game. If the Wildcats can get
pressure on Gardner - which
doesn't seem to be too hard now-
adays - that's all that matters.
Still, Gardner is one of the
best athletes in the conference,
as is his favorite target, fifth-
year senior wide receiver Jeremy
Gallon. If those two can get just
a split-second more time in the
pocket, Michigan should be able
to succeed against an unimpres-
sive Northwestern secondary.
Edge: Michigan
Michigan rush offense vs.
Northwestern rush defense
Negative 69 rushing yards in
the last two games. Negative 69.
There's really nothing more
that needs to be said here.
Edge: Northwestern
Northwestern pass offense
vs. Michigan pass defense
The strong suit of North-
western's offense is the running
game, but the passing game is
nothing to overlook.
The offense operates entirely
from the shotgun and utilizes
two quarterbacks, Kain Colter
and Trevor Siemian. Colter is
more of a runner, while Siemian
is the more prototypical pocket-
Combined, the duo has com-
pleted almost 70 percent of their
passes while throwing for 11
touchdowns and almost 1,900
All season, Michigan's pass
defense has been bend but don't
break. It's weathered massive
passing performances from
Indiana but given up easy first
downs against Nebraska.
Last week, defensive coor-
dinator Greg Mattison decided
to switch up his starting safe-
ties, going with senior Court-
ney Avery and redshirt junior
Josh Furman. Apparently, usual
starter Thomas Gordon had an
ankle injury, even though the
redshirt senior played special
The new starters, Furman in
particular, struggled early on.
And on the biggest play of
the game, a fourth-and-2 late
in the fourth quarter where a
stop would have won the game,
Michigan's cornerbacks played
eight yards off the line of scrim-

The result was a 26-yard com-
pletion that essentially gave the
game to Nebraska.
Michigan's secondary has
been solid all season, and North-
western isn't a terror through

the air. Still, mistakes like that
fourth-down play last weekend
could be the difference against
the Wildcats.
Edge: Michigan
Northwestern rush offense
vs. Michigan rush defense
Some of the Conrhuskers' big-
gest offensive plays last week
came off of option pitches,
including the go-ahead score
late in the fourth quarter.
So this is Northwestern's
biggest advantage on Satur-
day because if the Wolverines
struggled against the option last
week, it's only goingto get worse
in Evanston.
The Wildcats rely on Colter
to rip apart defenses out of the
option, which he's done to the
tune of 523 yards and four touch-
downs this season. The main
running back he's pitching to,
Treyvon Green, averages more
than six yards per carry.
This unit is missing star run-
ning back Venric Mark - who
was a second-team All-Big Ten
selection last year - due to a
fractured left ankle but could
still give the Wolverines fits.
In practicethis week, redshirt
junior wide receiver Anthony
Capatina has been the scout
team quarterback and the one
Michigan has been practicing
the option against.
Whether that matters
remains to be seen, though,
because in order for Colter and
the running game to not have
a field day, Michigan's young
defense is going to have to stay
disciplined and not forget its
pitch assignments. It's allowed
just 3.2 yards per carrythis year,
but it also hasn't seen an option
like Northwestern's.
Edge: Northwestern
Special teams
Junior punter Matt Wile had
arguably his best game of the
year against Nebraska, punting
six times while averaging almost
49 yards per punt, including a
69-yard blast in the second quar-
ter. He also missed a 52-yard
field goal, but fifth-year senior
kicker Brendan Gibbons picked
up the slack by going 2-for-2.
Northwestern's special teams
unit, from kicker to punter to
kick returner, are all solid if not
Edge: Michigan

RELEASE DATE- Friday, November 15, 2013
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Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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Northwestern hasn't won a
game in the Big Ten yet. The
Wildcats came close against
Ohio State and even closer
against Nebraska, but still,
that's the bottom line for ateam
expected to compete for a Big
Ten title before the season.
But in a way, that's almost
an advantage. Northwestern is
going to have a breakthrough
game at some point this season.
Why not this weekend,
against a Michigan team that's
lost three of its last four, has
heard boos for the first time in
Michigan Stadium in the three
years Brady Hoke has been
the coach and has consistently
struggled on the road?
If that breakthrough is going
to come, it's going to come this
Edge: Northwestern
Prediction: Northwestern 24,
Michigan 17

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Junior defensive end Frank Clark is going to play a big role in option defense.




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